Monday, April 27, 2009
NO CHILD LEFT BEHIND AND THE SWINE FLU
I have been watching the updates on the concern over the Swine Flu. Will it be an epidemic? Will it become a pandemic? It's too early to tell, but it is time to continue the practical steps that we should be taking anyway: washing hands often, keeping hands away from the face, and staying home when sick.
At the same time that the national health care professionals and the news media are encouraging folks to stay home when sick, many of our schools are still in the mandatory testing that is a part of No Child Left Behind. One component of this national rating of our schools is attendance. I know we must encourage attendance for our school children. As a school board member years ago, I remember being shocked at the large number of absences of some of our students. However, the No Child Left Behind rating will score a school as not meeting progress if even one sub-group fails to meet the attendance requirement on the day of testing - not all year; but just on that testing day.
With this pressure to succeed, teachers push parents to send their child to school for testing despite illness, fever, flu. There are no excuses for not taking the tests. Will we be helping to spread the flu to entire schools so that sick students can help make an arbitrary goal set by politicians?
I think we need more realistic ways to rate our schools. Yes, many of our schools need improving, but many more are doing an excellent job of educating students from diverse backgrounds and ability levels. We need to have schools that students come to with eager enthusiasm, ready to learn, well disciplined, to be taught by teachers who are well prepared and also enthusiastic. We need a way to evaluate schools by total performance in a realistic way. We are not giving teachers, students, parents or the community a realistic picture of their educational system when, as part of the evaluation for an entire school and district, we rate a school as failing because that school has one too many sick children in a sub-group during testing.